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Winchester’s Courtney Tavener scoring as a leader of BC field hockey

Senior Courtney Tavener, a Winchester High graduate, is a scoring leader on the BC women’s field hockey team. Senior Courtney Tavener, a Winchester High graduate, is a scoring leader on the BC women’s field hockey team.
By Jeff Powalisz
Globe Correspondent / October 27, 2011

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Courtney Tavener is just too modest to admit it. She’s simply too dedicated to recognize it, too team-oriented to even acknowledge the consensus of her field hockey teammates at Boston College: When fresh-legged, Tavener gets the ball.

Take Sept. 23, for example.

The team is 560 miles away in Charlottesville, Va., playing against the University of Virginia. It’s been a long, strenuous contest between the Eagles and Cavaliers, headed for its second overtime. BC was tired. The Eagles had already experienced defeat in overtime against Maryland, 4-3, one week earlier, and it didn’t want to again.

With the game still tied at 4 halfway through the second 15-minute, seven-on-seven extra period, Tavener stood on the sidelines, amped up and ready. The referees’ whistle blew and she subbed into the game. Back in the BC net, fellow senior Nicole Barry observed (and heard) the action.

“Everyone kind of said, ‘Courtney just got on the field,’ ’’ Barry said. “Someone said, ‘Courtney’s in; we have to get her the ball.’ ’’

After a free hit on the Eagles’ side, Tavener raced through numerous defenders and potted the winning goal, finishing off a hat trick in the process.

“Once she started dribbling, we knew she had it,’’ Barry said.

After watching the play on film the next day, Tavener still couldn’t quite explain how she barreled through the Cavalier defense.

“I have no idea how I did it; I just went with the ball,’’ she said.

It’s the kind of responsibility the Winchester High graduate has welcomed with open arms since arriving as a prized BC recruit in the fall of 2008.

The niece of legendary Watertown High field hockey coach Eileen Donahue, Tavener leads the Eagles with 26 points (10 goals, 6 assists) as the season nears its end, and is capping off four consistent campaigns.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,’’ said Tavener, who played with her sister, and fellow Winchester High grad Michelle, as a freshman. “I’ve been playing since I was 6. It’s been a big honor to play at BC, and there’s just a great, competitive team atmosphere. Granted it’s hard, but we help each other out along the way.’’

The four-time Middlesex League All-Star, a 2007 Globe All-Scholastic, played in all 19 games as a freshman. She arrived at BC as a playmaker, and still values her inherent passing skills, but it is her emergence as a scoring threat that most impresses seventh-year coach Ainslee Lamb.

“I’ll be honest, we had to encourage her to want to score,’’ Lamb said. “That’s why this has been the most exciting year for her. We always told her, ‘You’re just as strong a teammate if you’re the one putting the ball in the back of the net.’ ’’

Lamb knew she had a key weapon, and had to harness the gifts of her humble forward.

“We wanted other coaches to be saying, ‘Watch where Number 4 is,’ ’’ Lamb said. “We motivated her and instilled it in her; to make sure that she’s that threat on scouts’ notes. And there’s no question she’s been a part of every opponent’s preparation. They’d be naive not to prepare for her.’’

With just one other senior (Carla Tamer) alongside herself and Barry, Tavener knew that it would be her responsibility to pass the baton in her final year at The Heights. There is youth all over the roster, but at 10-7 through Sunday, after a 6-4 win over Dartmouth, and a No. 13 national ranking, it’s clear that her guidance has worked.

“At the beginning of this year, we hit a bit of a bump in the road,’’ Barry said. “We all sat down as a team and Courtney spoke up about not worrying about the little things, and that we really just needed to play our own game. She said, ‘Let your teammates lift you up.’ ’’

Tavener wasn’t recruited to be a preacher, but the message paid dividends. And in the process, whether she likes it or not, Tavener’s individual accolades were lifted as well.

“She’s so driven, and she’s really earned the opportunities and hype she’s received this year,’’ Lamb said. “She’s really flourished.’’

Jeff Powalisz can be reached at